Lately, I get the sense that India wants me to come visit her. I keep bumping into references to her everywhere I turn.
First, my friend Linda went to India. I saw her photos of crowded streets, ancient buildings, goats, monkeys, the Ganges, and the Taj Mahal. Even though Linda’s been to something like 99 countries, it looked like she was having a great time.
Then our friend Jim (who wrote “The Going Away Blues” for our second CD, House of Glass) really did go away. He went to India. I saw photos of him at various temples and a video of him riding in a rickshaw through the streets of Old Delhi. Hopefully, he’ll write a song about what it was like there.
Next, I met a folksinger named Shanti (the Sanskrit word for “peace”) in the unlikely setting of a south Tucson high school hallway. A teacher introduced us, mentioning that we both play folk music (a fact I had just shared with him the day before). Shanti and I chatted and exchanged e-mail addresses. She told me she’d love to get together for a jam sometime, and I promised to come see her perform at the Tucson Folk Festival. Good karma all around.
Just the other day, I picked up a favorite book at the library to re-read (“State of Wonder” by Ann Patchett). Although it’s set in the Amazon, the main character happens to be one-half Indian, and while under the influence of an anti-malaria drug, she has vivid dreams of her childhood trips to India to visit her father.
The next thing you know, I’ll be going out for dinner at that new Indian restaurant down the road (Saffron), renting the movie “The Darjeeling Limited” (one of my favorites), and booking my flight to New Delhi.
But the real kicker is that last night I couldn’t sleep, so I got up and read a few pages of another book I’m currently reading, “The Geography of Bliss,” by Eric Weiner. And you guessed it. He’s currently in India. What are the chances?
It wasn’t until I was deep into that chapter that all of the above India-references came together like tributaries emptying into the Ganges. (I couldn’t resist that one.) I suddenly felt that the universe was conspiring to tell me something. Either I must go to India tomorrow, or I must listen to some sitar music right away. I’m pretty sure that I might get fired if I go to India tomorrow, so I guess I’ll settle for some youTube sitar videos.
In “The Geography of Bliss,” Mr. Weiner travels the world, interviewing people about happiness. Much like me, he seems to be an open-minded skeptic. When in India, he visits an ashram, sits in the presence of a guru, and comes away with mixed feelings. He likes the message, but remains unconvinced.
Before leaving India, he meets with a gathering of locals and fellow travelers in a salon in Bangalore. The address? One Shanti Road.
The subject turns to gurus. Weiner asks, “Can you be genuine and a fraud at the same time?” The owner of the salon replies, “Apparently, you can. This is India.” Someone else says, “Everything in India is true, and its opposite is true also.” A third person that Weiner talks to says that Indians look at life as a game. You try your best and then accept whatever happens. “Just let the universe decide.” Weiner also quotes British philosopher Alan Watts: “A genuine person is one who knows he is a big act and does it with complete zip.”
Weiner stays at One Shanti Road for a few more days, until he has to return home to America. He leaves with mixed feelings, of course.
So my take-away from the book, and from all the India references that have been coming to me lately, is that my personal recipe for happiness is going to be to accept my life for the game that it is, to let the universe decide, and to do things with complete zip. And that just might include a trip to India some day.